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New therapy provides hope for millions of people suffering from bowel incontinence; Community Health Network is the first Indianapolis health system to offer sacral nerve stimulation

For release on August 11, 2011

Indianapolis, IN---It’s a topic most people don’t want to discuss or hear about, unless you’re one of the nearly 19-million Americans who suffer from chronic bowel incontinence. Fortunately, a new procedure is now available for its treatment. The treatment, called InterStim® Therapy is a minimally invasive procedure which uses electrical impulses to stimulate the sacral nerve, and thus improve muscle function. It is one of the only effective long-term treatments for bowel incontinence available to patients, and Community Hospital North is the first hospital in Indianapolis to offer the procedure.

Fecal incontinence is most common in adults, predominately women, and is not a normal part of aging. The disorder can be caused by a variety of factors, including damage to the nerves or muscles in the anal canal and sphincter from trauma such as childbirth, or other pelvic health disorders.

"I don't think we can appreciate the quality-of-life-impact bowel incontinence has,” said Shekar Narayanan, M.D., a board-certified colon rectal surgeon with Community Health Network. “Patients are afraid to be social, intimate or to be in public. I would have to say this may be one of the most important advances in patient quality-of-life in my ten years of practice.” Dr. Narayanan added, “Since it is minimally invasive, patients are able to recover quickly and notice improvement within days. Previously, so many of my patients did not have options other than a colostomy bag. I cannot express how excited I am to be able to help this subset of people.“

InterStim Therapy has been shown to reduce or eliminate bowel incontinence in 80 percent of patients, according to recent studies. The treatment involves three steps: test stimulation, surgical implant and post-implant follow up. During the first phase, a thin wire is placed to stimulate the sacral nerve. This allows doctors to determine if the patient is likely to benefit from the therapy before moving forward with the full procedure. If the trial phase is successful, a long-term neurostimulator device, similar to a pacemaker, is then implanted in the buttock. The device has adjustable settings that can be tailored to the patient needs, and over time can be controlled by the patient using a programmer which works like a remote control. The final phase is follow-up monitoring.

According to Ateet Shah, M.D., board-certified colon and rectal surgeon at Colon & Rectal Care, “This is an exciting new technique that will help improve the lives of patients for whom we previously had few, if any, options."

InterStim Therapy, previously available for treating symptoms of overactive bladder, was recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for fecal incontinence. “This sacral nerve stimulation technique represents a minimally invasive, highly effective technique which will greatly improve the quality of life for patients suffering from this debilitating problem,” said Arun Gowdamarajan, M.D., board-certified colon and rectal surgeon. I have patients that wept when they heard about this procedure. They finally have hope.”

To date, more than 85,000 people have received InterStim Therapy worldwide. Physicians tout the ability to determine the probable success of the therapy before committing to the full procedure as one of the many benefits.

About Community Health Network
Ranked among the nation’s most integrated healthcare systems, Community Health Network is Central Indiana’s leader in access to innovative and compassionate healthcare services, where and when patients need them—in hospitals, in convenient health pavilions and doctor’s offices, in the workplace, at schools, in the home and online. As a non-profit health system with multiple sites of care and affiliates throughout Indiana, Community’s full continuum of care integrates hundreds of physicians, acute care and specialty hospitals, surgery centers, physician offices, home care services, walk-in care centers and employer health services. To put the needs and the convenience of patients first, Community pioneers advanced treatments and world-class health information technologies, with a focus on ease of access to exceptional care.


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Curt Miller
Media Relations